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    Crime takes a bite out of dog

    A 3-year-old golden Lab is no match for knife-wielding burglars. Valuables are gone, but Rusty will be okay.

    [Times photo: Stefanie Boyar]
    April Sircel cuddles Rusty on Wednesday as he relaxes at home after surgery. Burglars smashed a window and stabbed Rusty four times Tuesday before taking money, jewelry and presents from the Valrico home.

    By AMY HERDY, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published December 13, 2001

    VALRICO -- The burglars walked past the swing set and playhouse and shattered the double-pane windows of the master bedroom.

    That's when the family thinks they must have encountered Rusty.

    The burglars stabbed the 3-year-old, 63-pound golden Labrador retriever four times before he crawled to safety beneath a backyard trailer. They then ransacked the house, flipping mattresses and emptying dresser drawers before stealing money, jewelry and Christmas presents.

    A neighbor near the home on Bent Oak Street in Valrico recalled hearing Rusty yelp about 10 or 11 a.m. Tuesday.

    It was hours later before he was found.

    "I came home from work, and he was barely crawling," said Bill Sircel, 41, who arrived home at 6 p.m. just before his wife, April, 30, and their 7-year-old daughter, Crystal.

    "You silly dog," Crystal said to Rusty, who often sleeps by her side, refusing to believe he had been badly hurt. Then reality set in and the first-grader threw up, spent the night at her grandparents' home and told her mother she doesn't want to live in their house anymore.

    Rusty underwent surgery Tuesday night at an emergency veterinary clinic. He had been stabbed twice in the back and twice in the shoulder. Shaved, stitched 18 times and sporting four drainage tubes, he was allowed to go home Wednesday but paced so much that Mrs. Sircel gave him a sedative.

    The Hillsborough Sheriff's Office is investigating.

    Losses include all of Mrs. Sircel's jewelry, cash from the recent sale of two trucks that Mr. Sircel, a mechanic, had repaired and sold, and the money Crystal kept in a jug. The thieves also took some presents from under the Christmas tree, including the crock pot Mrs. Sircel bought her father and the presents Crystal had bought for her grandparents.

    Worst of all, they took the family's peace of mind.

    Mr. Sircel's 18-year-old son, Billy, has vowed to find the culprits, and his father wonders about anyone who has visited their home in the past few weeks.

    Rusty is so protective, he said, he would not have let a stranger into the fenced back yard.

    "I know it happens, but you lose confidence in a lot of different things," Mr. Sircel said Wednesday as his wife cradled Rusty in her lap.

    "That's what really hurts," he said. "Him, and the fact my little girl has to see him like this."

    - Amy Herdy can be reached at 226-3386 or

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